Pregnant? Here’s a great gift for the grandparents-to-be

A couple weeks ago, an author’s assistant contacted me to see if I wanted to check out Jane Isay‘s new book, Unconditional Love. I love reading and have been on a big parenting-book binge lately (you know, three pages at a time, over the course of eons because it’s so hard to find time to read these days), so I said yes!

So I got a free book. And I’m writing about it in exchange. But that’s it–my opinions are my own.

Unconditional-love
Unconditional Love by Jane Isay

And the short version of that opinion is, I wish I’d had this book to give my parents when we first told them we were expecting, three years ago now. I’d have told you to read this book even if I’d just chanced across it at the library.

There are thousands of books on becoming parents, yet despite the huge role grandparents often play in a growing family, I haven’t come across (or honestly thought to seek out) any books about grandparenthood.

Isay’s book fills this gap by helping elucidate some of the friction points in the evolving parent-grandparent relationship (“Enough with the ice cream!” “Why do you have to bring a pile of presents every time we see you?!” “What’s the big deal if he stays up a little late tonight?” etc.) in a way that, I think, honors and respects parents’ prerogative without discounting the vital and unique role grandparents play in their grandchildren’s lives.

While Isay’s book speaks to grandparents directly, I got a lot out of reading it as a parent. I also handed it off to my parents–who live across the street from me, and who have flourished as grandparents even while we’ve butted heads on some things–for their take, and they both really enjoyed the book, too.  My mom even commented that it would make a great gift for announcing to one’s parents that you’re pregnant.

Both new parents and new grandparents can feel incredibly vulnerable and defensive (new parents, because they’re trying to find their footing and find so many “hills to die on” as they make decisions for their children, and grandparents, because they’ve been there, done that and want to help–and feel that rabid affection for their grandchildren that can hardly be contained), and Unconditional Love sets a neutral ground for some really tough conversations.

Isay employs storytelling to get her points across, so while it feels a little like therapy to read, it’s not your run-of-the-mill, dry and unrealistic self-help book. Her stories (both from her own life and from other grandparents’) conjured a lot of memories for me, both in my own childhood and now, with my kids.

If you’re a parent, or approaching parenthood, I’d highly recommend gifting this book to your parents and/or in-laws. And if you’re a grandparent-to-be, I can’t think of a much better way to show your child that you’re committed to rising to the occasion by picking up this book and taking notes.

One more thing–Isay opens the book with this beautiful, heartrending poem. So I didn’t get past the first page without crying. I miss my grandparents so much, and am so grateful that I had their time and love and stories, that it reminded me just how important it is to do the work to give my children that same gift.

d5deaac016a0ea8331764eeb2995be6e

 

Pregnant? Here’s a great gift for the grandparents-to-be

Easier or harder? Life as a mom of two

First week with two

Baby 2 is 9 days old and we’re deep in newborn territory. During my entire pregnancy, I found myself comparing Baby 1 and Baby 2, and of course, I continue to do so. I prowled pregnancy forums after Googling things like, “Gestation duration first baby vs. second,” “Linea nigra first pregnancy but not second,” etc.

I also hounded every mom of more than one kid I know to get her take on whether the second time around the block was easier than the first. (I got mixed messages, but usually “harder.”) So far I’ve found that it’s both easier and harder.

So in a quick recap of the last nine months, and the last five days, I thought I’d run down what has been harder, easier, or just wildly different about my first and second children, just in case it’s interesting fodder for another second time mom-to-be someday. (Of course, making no promises that your pregnancies or babies will be even remotely like mine.)

First Trimester

Harder.

My first trimester this time around was definitely harder. I had more in the way of morning sickness (still no vomiting, fortunately, but loads more nausea) and didn’t have the luxury of as much free time, as I was chasing around a 15-month old at the time.

On the bright(?) side, I didn’t have food aversions like I did the first time around, so I had no problem eating… or packing on some early pounds.

Second Trimester

Harder.

I felt pretty good during the second trimester, but having a toddler is still way more physically taxing on a pregnant body, even when you feel good. I know I spent a lot more time getting down and up from the floor with my second pregnancy than my first. And was far more worn out because of it.

Third Trimester

(Way, way harder.)

Same issues with toddler chasing and just not having as much free time to relax as I did when I was pregnant with the first baby. Because I wasn’t getting as much exercise, I avoided the hip bursitis I developed the first time around, but I also gained a little more weight, am two years older, and just generally more prone to joint pain. So by about 36 weeks with Baby 2, I felt immensely more pregnant than I did at the end of first baby’s pregnancy.

One night, after my least favorite midwife told me I had better “try spinning babies” because my baby *might* be sunny side up, I got fully stuck lying flat on my back with my feet propped up on the couch, both crying from the pain and laughing at how ridiculous I felt (and probably looked) as the husband gingerly tried to reposition me so I could get up. When my toddler threw stuff on the ground, it felt like a personal attack. Getting him down for a nap was torture.

Childbirth

Shorter, maybe a little easier? (Not less painful, to be clear.)

While the pain was just as unbelievably intense the second time around as the first, knowing just how hard it was going to get (and that there was an upper threshold, and that I could survive it) made labor and delivery a little easier this time around. Having a big tub of warm water to labor in was really nice, too. While my movement wasn’t restricted too much at the hospital I delivered Baby 1 at, I was grateful to have switched to the birthing center.

Also, I made clear that I didn’t want any sort of directed pushing, and letting my body guide the pace felt a lot more productive. I also avoided the tearing, as well as the burst blood vessels in my eyes and face, further indication that pushing this time around was far gentler on me than the first time.

Postpartum recovery (so far)

Easier and harder

I’m still a little achy, and having to take it easier than I’d like, but I feel pretty good overall. The Husband got me a FitBit for Christmas, and I’ve noticed if I exceed about 5,000 steps a day, I get sore and my bleeding picks back up.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep my feet up and relax with a two-year-old demanding our attention, even though The Husband is picking up all my slack these first few weeks. So while I left the hospital feeling better than I did, and other factors are considerably easier this time around, it’s way harder to rest as much as I should.

Breastfeeding

So much easier (thank heavens)

I had a really rough time with breastfeeding the first time around. I told the lactation consultant at the hospital this time that my first baby’s latch seemed infinitely stronger and more painful than Baby 2’s. She asked me if anyone had recommended chiropractic care/cranial sacral massage (no), that my first baby could have had a tight jaw from childbirth that made his latch so strong.

It was oddly disappointing to hear a potential solution for an issue that ended up causing me so much angst and pain; I wish I’d had that advice the first time around. But that’s neither here nor there now, as Baby 2 is latching perfectly, I have had no pain to speak of, and am optimistic that I’ll dodge most of the breastfeeding complications I remember from last time.

Sleep

Easier

When Baby 1 wouldn’t sleep without being held, The Husband and I struggled enormously with the decision to co-sleep. It was the only way to secure more than a couple broken hours of rest each night, and when I found myself nearly falling down the stairs carrying the baby one morning because I was so tired, we finally decided to go for it, as safely as we could.

Even so, I felt terribly guilty and ashamed. We were obviously prioritizing our own comfort over the baby’s safety. I wasn’t tough enough to do things the “right” way. We lied to our pediatrician. I endlessly fretted to my mom friends. I imagined our decision had doomed us to a years-long sentence of a kid sleeping in our bed, if he survived.

But you know what? It worked out fine for us. I got rest, we maintained an excellent breastfeeding relationship, and before Baby 1 was a year old, he was sleeping in his own crib, in his own room, just fine.

So this time around, after the first night in the hospital when The Husband and I took two-hour shifts holding Baby 2 while the other slept, because he wouldn’t stay asleep in his bassinet, I unceremoniously brought him to our (again, set up as safely as possible) bed. Every night since, I’ve averaged (again, thanks to FitBit data) at least 6.5 hours of sleep each night. It’s way harder to “sleep when the baby sleeps” with a toddler in the house, so this has been vital for my well-being (and thus my ability to care for both kids).

I’m not saying cosleeping is right for everyone. If your baby sleeps fine alone, and/or you function all right on very little sleep, the bassinet is probably the better choice. But bedsharing is working out for our family, and I’m not remotely ashamed of our decision this time around.

Keeping Up with Milestones and Traditions

Harder, of course

With Baby 1, I diligently took week-by-week photos, had already half filled out his baby book, and was glued to his side watching for every first (first smile! first diaper blowout!) I also had knitted a baby blanket that was finished by the time I hit my third trimester. I had birth announcements pre-designed and plenty of time to set up a photo shoot in the week after we came home.

Of course, this time around, I finished the baby blanket the day I went into labor (and frankly, I cut it off a little early so it’s more of a wide baby scarf), the baby book remains untouched, and my monitoring of firsts is far less precise. My house is too messy to take photos for a birth announcement I have considered only in theory.

That’s just how it goes when there are two kids. And while I’m getting in as much snuggle time as I can with Baby 2, I am often simultaneously building with blocks or reading books to The Toddler. My days are fuller, and while I honestly couldn’t conceive of it before Baby 2 arrived, my heart is fuller, too. Things are harder, but I’m happier.

Easier or harder? Life as a mom of two

Pregnancy Week 39: The Longest Nights

For some reason inexplicable beyond the need for self-preservation, I believed with my whole heart that Baby 2 would be born at exactly the same gestation as Baby 1: 39 weeks, one day. As in, yesterday.

Well, two days ago, I guess, because it’s 1 a.m. and I have late pregnancy rage insomnia and am typing this over a steaming cup of tea while I myself fume.

Pregnancy Week 39

I know, I know. The healthiest babies are born after 39 weeks. It’s good the baby is still baking. Not only is it better for his or her health, but it also gives me more time to prepare: To spend time with The Toddler, to wrap up loose ends with my freelancing work, to mentally test the baby names we think we might have settled on, to update the birth announcement mailing list and work on my as-yet unfinished knitted baby blanket. Or if I’m being honest, more time to hide in the pantry and eat secret candy bars.

And I’m sure going into the future, my kids will appreciate not sharing a birthday (though I hoped if they at least both had Christmas birthdays, they could commiserate together.) It was, despite my disappointment over not being in labor, very nice to be able to spend Christmas Day relaxing and seeing The Toddler open his gifts.

Every night, in a hopeful fit of nesting that feels increasingly naive and futile, I thoroughly clean the kitchen and run through as much laundry as I can find, just in case tonight is The Night. I want to leave some semblance of order behind in case my parents have to swoop in and take over toddler care. And then, every night, by 8 p.m., I fall into an exhausted sleep, convincing myself I had better be as rested as possible in case things get moving.

I went to the midwife appointment this morning that I was sure I wouldn’t have made it to. I was once again so irritated by the hyper-cheerful nurse that I nearly burst into frustrated tears when she asked me how I was feeling. The midwife checked the baby’s heart rate and sent me on my way, reminding me (read: stressing me out) that my baby “might be” posterior and to try Spinning Babies just in case.

On my way out I scheduled another follow-up appointment for next Thursday, and the nurse told me, “No offense, but we hope we don’t see you next week.”

With deep earnestness, I replied, “I don’t want to see you, either!” She laughed heartily, and I left in a poorly concealed huff. That poor woman. I’m sure she’s lovely when it’s not all her fault I’m still pregnant.

The high was 13 degrees today, so during The Toddler’s nap I went to the rec center and did a quick power-walk to try to ease the baby out. I felt like a parade float caught in a wind storm, swerving around my elderly walking companions. The exercise made my lower back scream and my ankles ache. I got myself stuck on the floor later this evening trying to stretch out my “psoas” muscles as per the Spinning Babies website and had to have The Husband push my knees toward my chest so I could roll over while I grew increasingly hysterical at the the absurdity of it all.

Now that I’m well beyond the artificial sphere of control I manufactured for myself with the dead-certain belief Baby 2 would be out by now, I am feeling resigned. Maybe not quite at peace, but heading in that direction. The baby will decide when it’s time. And in the meantime, I will try to balance my late-pregnancy fury with a sincere attempt at being present in these fleeting moments (even if they don’t feel fleeting.)

Out the window now, the half moon, like a slice of blood orange tonight, has sunken below the trees. This is a desolate hour to be awake.

These long winter nights don’t need any help feeling endless, but waiting for baby certainly makes them seem eternal.

Pregnancy Week 39: The Longest Nights

Pregnancy Week 38: Maybe, Baby? (Spoiler: Nope.)

There’s nothing I like more than putting undue, arbitrary pressure on myself.

During my pregnancy with Baby #1, I set the pointless goal of having a baby before I turned 30. I was 38 1/2 weeks pregnant when my 30th birthday came and went without so much as a twinge of a contraction, and I spent the whole day sulking. Five days later, having been run through ringer of childbirth and sitting stunned and bleeding on the other side, I wondered what my rush had been.

(Yes, of course, I was over the moon to have my baby in my arms, but really, there was no hurry. I literally had/have the rest of my life to be a mother.)

This time around, especially as we serendipitously conceived on the exact same day as the last time, my goal for having the baby was no later than exactly the same as last time: Christmas Day. That means I have three more days.

What’s that, you say? Every pregnancy is different? Every baby arrives at his or her own time?

No one asked you.

Of course, my labors will be identical, down to the timing.

It’s been really difficult not to compare the two pregnancies. Even though I know dilation means zilch in the labor-prediction game, I’ve had a few checks and am, by my accounts, running behind where I was with Baby 1. Even though I feel like a fois gras goose choking down six mega-sized medjool dates every day.

Instead of acknowledging that A: I’m not overdue, B: Every pregnancy truly is different, C: I know what’s on the other side of labor, and it’s not going to be easier than pregnancy, and D: I’m mourning the one-on-one time with The Toddler even as I itch to be in labor, I am finding ways to blame myself for not having had the baby yet, as though I have any control over it whatsoever.

Even as I typed the last phrase of that endless sentence, here’s the internal monologue that piped in: “Of course you have control over it. You’re not getting nearly as much exercise as you did the first time around. Eat some [insert old wives’ tale food here–spicy food, pineapple cores, whatever…]”

I know this is irrational. I know that the timing of a birth is not even remotely a reflection on one’s personal fortitude, punctuality or virtue. I know this.

And yet. On Tuesday morning I woke up at 2 a.m. feeling crampy. I was having lots of not painful, but consistent, contractions, and for the first time decided to start timing them. An hour later, after six or so contractions, I woke up The Husband to inform him we may be heading toward baby time. Things remained steady through the morning, so we went to my scheduled midwife appointment, having to ask my mom to stay home from work to watch The Toddler. Everyone was excited in spite of themselves. I had my doubts, but was looking forward to some indication that labor might be on its way.

The midwife, whom I hadn’t met with before, was dismissive and vague. The nurse had me undress for a cervical check when I described my symptoms, and the midwife came in seemingly baffled that I’d asked to be checked (It wasn’t my idea, lady!) She didn’t even acknowledge the question of whether I was in labor, more than to tell me to come back in a week.

I’m sure it didn’t help that I was exhausted from being up all night, but she made me feel stupid (especially as a second-timer) for thinking I might be in early labor. I felt bad inconveniencing my mom and The Husband, getting everyone’s hopes up, and have been questioning my ability to tell what’s happening with my body ever since. I’ve also had stress dreams every night about the baby being “sunny side up” as the midwife suggested it may be, and if I’m not upright or leaning forward on an exercise ball, I feel like I’m sabotaging my chances of a good labor.

Sorry, this post has devolved into the paranoid ramblings of a very tired, very hormonal and very pregnant woman. I know I should be patient. I know I have no reason to be in any hurry. My toddler reminded me of this when he fell asleep in my arms for his nap today, both hot palms pressed against my cheeks as we sang, “You Are My Sunshine” to each other. It was heavenly, and I know I will be torn in two missing it while I’m holding a new baby, just as loved, whenever he or she decides to arrive.

And yet, there was still that mean thought whispering in the back of my head as I relished this fleeting time: You’re leaning back too far in the chair. The baby is going to be facing the wrong way. Get up and get on the exercise ball. Do. Not. Be. Present. In. The. Moment.

Ugh.

Pregnancy Week 38: Maybe, Baby? (Spoiler: Nope.)

Pregnancy Week 37: Would You Rather…

I’m well into my 38th week of pregnancy and losing momentum on keeping up with these weekly posts. No worries here, though. Sooner rather than later, it’ll be a wrap on this pregnancy and I’ll be a zombified shell of my already zombified self whose priorities will be miles away from blogging.

In the meantime, here’s a taste of what Week 37 was like.

I’m continuing to gain mass somehow, even though I’m full all the time. Every meal feels like the last few forced bites of Thanksgiving dinner, but I’ve found plenty of reasons to stress eat nonetheless. Stepping on the scale at my midwife appointment each week feels like kneeling at the guillotine (even though I haven’t really gotten any shit for it. It’s just baffling to see the numbers continue to climb).

My hips hurt and I can’t roll over in bed without my knees glued together unless I want to hear and feel the unsettling popping of SPD. I cling to the dreaded Snoogle every night like a life raft, drooling and snoring and waffling over whether to get up to pee again.

I’ve been having tons of Braxton Hicks still, sometimes through the night despite drinking lots of water and changing positions and all that. This remains an unsettling pattern, because I had none the last time around and the onset of labor was obvious. I’m a little worried I’m either going to not notice when labor starts because of the BH, or spend lots of time driving back and forth the 45 minutes to the hospital for false alarms.

Anyway, the big theme of Week 37, now that I’m officially safe to go into labor at any point, was playing the miserable late-pregnancy game, “Would You Rather?” As in:

  • Would you rather wrestle yourself and your two-year-old into snow gear to go outside and play, or go into labor?
  • Would you rather find something other than sweatpants to wear to the store and risk having your bare belly hang out for the world to see, or go into labor?
  • Would you rather crawl under the porch to refill the chickens’ water, or go into labor?
  • Would you rather water the Christmas tree, or go into labor?
snowangel
Nothing I did in my first pregnancy, including pushing the baby out, prepared me for wrestling my firstborn into a snowsuit while 37 weeks pregnant with my second.

You get the idea. Labor sounds better than just about anything involving me existing in this giant, cumbersome, uncomfortable body anymore. Obviously, this is nature’s way of making what is an intense and painful experience seem enticing.  Yes, I know this is a frying pan-fire situation. I’ve done this before. I know what I’m in for (for the most part). And still, I’m ready to be done.

The Husband has had to pick up a lot of my slack, including most of the goat and chicken care and all night time potty checks with The Toddler. I try to ease my guilt by reminding myself I’ll be nursing a new baby 24/7 in no time, and no matter how much we work to split the workload, I’m going to bear the unique burdens of new motherhood again very soon. It’s what we signed up for. So I’ll try to put my feet up in the meantime when he insists.

Pregnancy Week 37: Would You Rather…

Pregnancy Week 36: Easy tears (and an easy Christmas craft)

I’m officially 37 weeks now. Which means, in addition to the baby being basically fully cooked and safe to come out, I am officially eligible to labor in the tub at the birthing center, if I want. Hooray!

But let’s talk about Week 36.

The primary features of Week 36 this time around:

  • Braxton Hicks contractions
  • Lightning crotch
  • Hairtrigger crying reflex
  • Stress eating, and the subsequent return of heartburn

Pregnancy-wise, it wasn’t too rough of a week. I think I’ve finally completed the midwife circuit at the practice I go to, and I’m now on a weekly appointment schedule. At the 36 week appointment, I got the Group B strep test (presumed negative, as I didn’t get a phone call), so I won’t have to get antibiotics during labor.

Life-wise, it wasn’t an especially pleasant week. I’m still swamped with freelancing work (which is a good thing! And a fun project! But not the greatest timing on my part), had to spend two daycare mornings dealing with minor but inconvenient car issues, and The Toddler is once again going through a weird developmental phase (please, God, let this just be a phase) where he is refusing to nap and regressing with his potty-training habits. The Husband, too, was stretched thin, and worked late three nights last week, so while he did his best I felt like I was flying solo through a lot of turbulence.

The Toddler napped one. time. last week. And has had about four costume changes a day, thanks to his refusal to tell me when he needs to go. On the bright side, no naps means he is crashing for bed by 6 p.m. But then again, so am I.

All of which made that freelancing work pretty tricky to tackle, and all preparation for his family birthday party on Saturday had to wait until Saturday morning, which meant by 2:30 on Saturday afternoon I was just frantically running around the house, tears streaming down my face, as I tried to put everything together at the  last minute. I’ve got to stop being enormously pregnant during the holidays.

Fortunately, The Toddler’s grandparents and aunts and uncles were (at least outwardly) unbothered by our mediocre food offerings and only wanted to shower the Toddler in gifts and affection. He had a blast, and is enjoying the infusion of new toys. (And my mom gets to live to see another Christmas, despite her gift of a thousand-decibel tractor toy with no off switch, because she watched him Saturday morning so we could pull everything together.)

I don’t have any additional pregnancy wisdom or whining to throw your way this week, so here are a few shots of the quick-and-dirty advent calendar I put together for The Toddler. Obviously, it’s way too late for this to be useful for this year, but maybe it will come in handy next year if you feel obligated to make something homemade but want to keep it super simple (like, say, if you’re enormously pregnant.)

 

Super-simple Toddler Advent Calendar

Materials

  • 1/2 yard green felt
  • A way to affix the felt to your wall (maybe Command strips/velcro? I’m lucky to have a brick hearth that holds the felt all on its own)
  • Several yards of cotton string (I used craft baker’s twine)
  • 25 buttons
  • Yarn or ticker cotton string the length of your mantle
  • Multicolored cardstock
  • Hole punch
  • 2″-ish circle template (I traced the inside of a roll of masking tape)
  • 25 clothespins
  • Metallic Sharpie
  • 25 stickers (optional)

Directions

  1. Cut out a triangle shape from the felt. (Mine is about 30″-36″ tall and 18″ wide at the base).
  2. Sew 25 buttons onto the felt to give your toddler a way to hang up the ornaments.
  3. Hang the felt tree on the wall with Command velcro strips/brick.
  4. Cut out 25 circles from the cardstock. Number them 1-25.
  5. Punch holes in the circles and tie a loop of string to each.
  6. String up the yarn/string on your mantle and evenly space the 25 clothespins out.
  7. Pin each ornament up on the mantle, clipping a sticker behind each. (For older kids, you could also write something on the back of each ornament — an activity they get to do that day, a special memory you have with them, a riddle, whatever.)
  8. You’re done! Just help your little one take down an ornament each day and hang it on a button on the tree. I like to use the empty clothespins to hold Christmas cards as they come in.
Pregnancy Week 36: Easy tears (and an easy Christmas craft)

Pregnancy Week 35: Lightening Up (my belly, and my hospital bags)

The first day of my 35th week of pregnancy, I was sitting on The Toddler’s floor bed rubbing his back and trying to get him down for a nap when, suddenly, I felt it: the unmistakable pleasure of being able to take a deep breath. To make certain, I took another one. Yes! The baby had dropped!

I hadn’t even realized just how hard it had been to breathe until it got easy(ish) again. (Well, I sort of did, because The Husband asked me if I was all right every day because most of my exhales sounded like exasperated sighs.) Suddenly it was also the tiniest bit easier to move around, as my center of gravity was lower and my belly even felt a little smaller.

Of course, there is a tradeoff for easier breathing and improved balance when the baby drops. Here’s a few of my Google searches from this week to give you an idea of what that tradeoff might be:

  • 35 weeks can you feel dilation happening
  • cervical pressure 35 weeks
  • late third trimester cramping

Basically, it feels like the baby is getting some work done on the getting-ready-to-come-out front. I’m trying not to convince myself I’ll go into labor any earlier than I did with Baby 1 (39 weeks, 1 day), because I know it will only make me crazy to surpass any arbitrary deadlines I set. Despite this, baby-day is looming close enough that I am finally getting some of the major to-dos checked off my list. One of those is packing my hospital bags. I still have a few odds and ends to add, but if I were to go into labor today, I would not be caught completely empty-handed.

With our first baby, we packed everything imaginable. As most first-timers will tell you, almost none of those items got any use. My temptation this time around is to drastically underpack, both out of sheer laziness and because I’m hoping to not spend much time at the hospital either in labor or recovery afterward.

Again, setting myself up for potential disappointment, but second labors are usually shorter than first, and my first labor was only 12 hours last time, only three of which were at the hospital. Additionally, because we’re working with midwives, there are a lot of extras–like an exercise ball–I won’t have to bring in because they’re well equipped to support intervention-free birth. And finally, I don’t want to stick around any longer than absolutely necessary afterward. I hated our hospital stay last time and just wanted to go home.

However, because we’re dealing with a 40-minute drive to the hospital instead of five minutes, and because I’m not worried about getting pressured into interventions, we’ll be heading to the hospital sooner than we did last time. (Plus, again, it’s possible this labor will be shorter. I’m not interested in having a highway baby.) So I did add some things to the list that I might appreciate earlier on in labor.

Without further ado, here’s my pared-down hospital bag list this time around:

In case the hospital drive gets messy

  • A towel (if I don’t need it on the ride up, it might be nice to have a big towel for the post-birth shower, in case the hospital towels are tiny and scratchy again)
  • A few absorbent underpads to protect the car seats in case my water breaks

Labor essentials

  • Wooden back massager
  • Charged Bluetooth shower speaker (I can suction it straight to the birthing tub and not worry about getting it wet)
  • Headphones
  • Camera with charged batteries and a cleared SD card
  • Mini LED battery-powered Christmas lights (Since childhood, my “happy place” has always been sticking my head under the Christmas tree and staring up at the lights. Considering how much I withdrew into myself during my first labor, I expect this will be a soothing, easy focal point.)

Post-birth essentials

  • Change of clothes for myself and The Husband (just pajamas. I will probably hang out in a hospital gown in the immediate aftermath, and I don’t have a particular desire to get fully dressed for the drive home.)
  • Baby clothes (one set of newborn and one set of 0-3 month clothes in case this baby is bigger than the last one), plus a hat, booties, and a swaddler
  • Mini toiletries (I’m delivering at a different hospital than last time, but the toiletries at the county hospital were, I am assuming, jail grade. I’m not a soap snob, but my first post-birth shower was pretty unpleasant.)
  • Slippers and flip-flops (the latter for the shower)
  • Sleep mask to give me even the remotest shot of catching a nap

Paperwork/resources

  • A few copies of my birth plan
  • Pre-registration paperwork and insurance information, plus a copy of the informed consent paperwork I signed for the Holistic Birthing Center
  • Quick guides (from The Birth Partner and doula/podcaster Adriana Lozada’s “The Birth Partner’s Ultimate Labor Support Toolkit”) for The Husband
  • Birth affirmations on index cards (maybe laminated, if I’m feeling really ambitious). I spent most of my previous labor with my eyes shut, so I’m not planning to post them up anywhere. Instead, the intention is to equip The Husband with things I actually want to hear.

Digital prep

  • I temporarily upgraded to Spotify premium so I could make and download a few playlists to my phone. So far I have a “fun” playlist (for earlier labor, probably), a “serious” playlist for when the going gets a little tougher, and a “zen” playlist in case I just want instrumental music.
  • An app that has a contraction timer. I also plan on changing the settings on my phone when labor hits so it stays unlocked and is easy to access.
  • Important phone numbers programmed into both mine and my husband’s phones (midwives, hospital, etc.)

Things I’m on the fence about

  • The midwife I saw most recently recommended I bring a Boppy pillow. It just takes up a ton of space and I don’t really feel like hauling it around.
  • Same goes with a regular bed pillow. Maybe it would help me feel more “at home” to sleep, but I’m not sure the slightly enhanced comfort is worth the extra baggage.

That’s it for my hospital bag(s), I think. Second+ time moms, what did you add to your hospital bags? What did you ditch from the first time around?

Pregnancy Week 35: Lightening Up (my belly, and my hospital bags)